The April 23 and April 24 closed the books on the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty season. Seven weeks after the most recent format update Pauper is ready to turn the page to Streets of New Capenna. There are plenty of stories to tell about the past two months, but if there is one overarching theme it is one of change.
First, I think it is fair to say that there are three macro-archetypes at the top of the standings: Affinity, Boros, and Faeries. As I said earlier this week if you asked me to pick a “best” strategy it would be Faeries but I think Affinity is the one that does the most to define how the format is played currently.
It’s hard for Faeries to not be the best. It has access to the best hand sculpting in the format as well as the best answers in Counterspell and Spellstutter Sprite, and two fantastic card flow engines in Ninja of the Deep Hours and the Monarch. It can vacillate between red, black, and blue to pick the best potential supporting cast for a given weekend and its cards have a significant amount of “play” to them, that is they are not prescribed. The cards in Faeries provide you with a bounty of options and reward making the correct choices in a given moment. Compared to other decks, Faeries has additional opportunities to use the same game pieces to make hugely impactful plays.
So why do I say that Affinity does the most work to determine the field of battle? It is a collection of the most powerful cards and requires specific hate to combat. While it is somewhat less flexible than Faeries in execution of cards, it is more flexible in composition, with several possible builds all finding success on the back of the potent core of Deadly Dispute and material.
The Big Idea
If there is a narrative for this season it is that cards that generate material are much better than they look on the surface. Wire to wire, any card that could put stuff on to the board mattered in Neon Dynasty season. While this may have started with Deadly Dispute needing fodder it ended with a land destruction strategy topping their curve Imperial Oath.
If this paradigm shift persists it means taking a long hard look at any card that brings something along for the ride. Whether that’s a reemergence of Mogg War Marshal or a deeper appreciation of Wakedancer, cards that bring along friends are poised to be incredibly important.
Weirdly enough I think the color best positioned to take advantage of this potential change is green. Cards like Scion Summoner, Kozilek’s Predator, and Yavimaya Sapherd have been bringing material to bear for years before Deadly Dispute became a thing. If Casualty picks up steam in the form of Dig Up the Body then a Saproling token might be worth about as much as a Blood token, which is saying something.
Running the Streets
So what does this mean for the first days of the new season? Ignoring Faeries and Affinity seems like a mistake and cards like Dust to Dust will remain a premium inclusion, but so will cards that can effectively trade up with Faeries. We also cannot ignore the late surge in the popularity of Azorius Familiars. So if I were trying to attack this metagame, I would be trying to find a shell for Pestilence or Crypt Rats that also had redundant pieces of graveyard hate and enough life gain to buy time against Affinity.
If you enjoy my more dedicated Pauper content, consider supporting my work via Patreon. Rewards start at just $1 and every little bit is appreciated!